I am writing this in early October and am about to face the most pressing issue that any family will ever face. Can we actually eat all that Halloween candy before it starts going bad? This year, I have decided to prioritize which sweets to eat immediately and which to store away for a rainy day. So, I did some research and decided to share my findings with you.
The longest-lasting candy is hard candy like lollipops or Jolly Ranchers. When stored properly, they have an indefinite shelf life. For softer candies, dark chocolate lasts the longest. When stored in an airtight container and placed in a cool, dark place, it can last up to 3 years.
Okay, I know that you will get a wide variety of candy, so I decided to create this handy dandy chart for you.
The shelf life of common candies:
|Type of Candy||Unopened Shelf Life|
|Lollipops or Jolly Ranchers||Indefinitely when stored correctly|
|Dark Chocolate||Up to 3 years|
|Milk Chocolate-Based Candy Bars||6 to 8 months in an airtight container|
|Non Chocolate-Based Candy Bars||4 months to 1 year, depending on if stored in the pantry or fridge|
|Chewing Gum||9 to 18 months|
|M&Ms||6 to 16 months, depending on if stored in the pantry or fridge|
|Hard Candies and Mints||9 months to 1 year|
|Caramels||9 months to 1 year|
|Gummies||6 to 8 months in the pantry or 1 year in the freezer|
|Candy Corn||Up to 1 year|
|Jelly Beans||8 months|
How Long Does Candy Last After the Expiration Date?
Most candies don’t have a hard-and-fast expiration date. Instead, manufacturers use a ‘best by’ date, which is the last date the company will guarantee freshness and quality.
If you see a date on the wrapper or packaging, add about 6 months to that date, and you are usually fine. Some candy companies use a string of numbers and letters for their date code, but you can easily crack it with a quick internet search.
Why Does Candy Expire?
Candy can go bad. Even so, the key ingredient in candy is sugar, which is an excellent preservative. However, the other key component is moisture, which manufacturers use to control texture. Most candy bars are high in sugar and low in moisture, which gives them a shelf life of almost a year, if unopened.
Is It Okay to Eat Expired Candy?
If the taste is still decent and isn’t rancid, it’s often okay to eat expired candy. However, candy past its freshness can be tasteless, oddly textured, even moldy.
Even so, if you find that Halloween stash you accidentally misplaced, or a wrapped candy cane in last year’s Christmas decorations, feel free to indulge. You’ll probably be fine to eat either, even if the taste is less than great. As always, though, when in doubt, throw it out. Candy is cheap, and getting sick isn’t worth it.
Tip: Candy with a higher fat count and more moisture, like a peanut butter cup, goes bad faster. Further, adding fruit or nuts to candy makes it susceptible to mold, which is never appetizing. My advice is that if it has fruit, nuts, or high moisture, don’t chance eating it if it’s significantly past the best-by date.
The Proper Storage of Candy
The optimum time length to store unopened candy is between nine months to a year. Opened or unwrapped candy will lose its flavor in a matter of weeks or months.
Candy hates heat. Therefore, it does best when it’s tightly sealed and stored in a dry place away from direct heat. Here are some of the effects you might expect from keeping your candy too warm over an extended period:
- Melt- As anyone who’s ever forgotten a bag of gummies on their car seat is painfully aware.
- Texture Altered- For chocolate, heat makes it “bloom.” This is caused by the cocoa and fat rising to the top layer-leading to those unsightly whitish spots.
- Stickiness- Heat makes hard candies absorb more moisture and makes them sticky.
Pro Tip: If your hard candies are not individually wrapped, sprinkle them with sugar before placing them in a storage container. The sugar will absorb any extra moisture and keep your candy sweet.
Make Use of the Fridge
You can also store candy in the fridge, and many people swear by storing their chocolate in the freezer. Gummies, surprisingly, do great in the fridge and even better in the freezer. If you keep gummies in a sealed freezer bag, you can extend their shelf life from six months to a year!
Gum also lasts a long time. It can maintain its flavor for up to 18 months if stored in the pantry and depending on the brand. Buying gum in bulk is a great way to save. Many bulk gums or refills come with nifty Ziplock-style closures on their bags, making storage easy. Be sure to store different flavors of gum in separate containers. Also, don’t store gum in the freezer. It becomes hard and crumbly, making it difficult to chew.
Let’s face it, a question of what candy lasts the longest is somewhat moot. Most of us are lucky if candy stays around the house for more than two days. However, if you are preparing for possible food shortages or even the end of the world, I hope this article has helped give you the info you need. The importance of sweets cannot be understated, especially in times of strife.
Thanks for reading!